The South African cricket management seem to finely be learning from repeated past mistakes and have arranged to play two ODI games against Zimbabwe on the eve of their T20/ODI/Test series against England. Better late than never.

The Protea’s have in the past, time and again, failed to arrange adequate preparations for past tough series and major championships. Recently, after beating Australia in Australia they went into the home series cold, buoyed by confidence at beating the Aussies for the first time in a Test series since readmission, they decided against match time to ready themselves for the home series. They promptly lost the first two Tests before winning the final dead rubber by an innings. That was the first time South Africa had gone into a Test series against Australia as favourites. Some think the favourites tag was their undoing, but a lack of match preparedness is more likely. Just before the T20 World Cup in England the Protea’s players had come off a successful limited over series against the Aussies and then the majority of the squad took part in the IPL. They arrived at the T20 World Cup in great shape and until they lost to Pakistan in the semi final, their only loss of the tournament, had looked like the best team on show by miles. They then had a break for a few months with no cricket at all, domestic or club, before the Champions Trophy, on home soil. South Africa’s limited over performances over the last couple of years had seen them rightly ranked as the world’s top ODI team, and they entered the Champions Trophy as favourites. While every other team had played some cricket in the weeks preceding the competition the Protea’s did not. They should have found some way of ensuring some competitive cricket was played to fine tune and fully condition the players. Training matches and fitness camps are great, but nothing beats competitive game time. Zimbabwe or Kenya would have served far better than nothing at all. Lessens from the Aussie home series weren’t learned. The Protea’s lost two of their three group games and were knocked out early. Their bowlers in particular looked undercooked, conceding over 300 in two of the three matches.

So finely some lessens have been heeded and a Zimbabwe team that is more competitive then the one that last played the Protea’s, in 2007, will serve as a warm up to Test the readiness of the Protea’s before them embark on a long series against England. Let’s hope that this is the way forward for the team and that past mistakes will never be repeated.

The Protea’s will play Zimbabwe on November 8 in Willomore Park, Benoni, and on the 10th in Pretoria.

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